Welcome to the Trojan Family! But first, maybe Trojan Friendship?
I have, once again, been thinking about the future and as we all prepare to transition into new chapters, my mind keeps coming back to one part of the experience: making friends.
Much like everything else in life, graduate school is a rollercoaster of experience! There are peaks and valleys, and while you’re slowly ticking your way to the top or racing down the hill, it can be hard to remember there are other people on the ride too. It can be a lonely experience, after all. You may be moving across the country, your friends may now be employed full-time, and said plainly adult relationships can be hard! I have been a graduate student for two years now and I still feel these things sometimes. I’m sure these feelings will continue as I move into my next chapter too, but there are ways that we can put ourselves out there and meet other people! I’ve compiled a list of strategies that I have been tinkering with lately and I hope that in advance of your transition, whatever and wherever it may be, something sticks. The one thing they do have in common, however, is putting yourself out there. The frameworks in place are just that, foundations, and it is up to you to build them up!
Schedule and Protect Your Time
I want to start off with some sage advice my lifestyle redesign course received from Dr. Camille Dieterle this semester. She encouraged us to look at our calendars and see when we were having fun versus our responsibilities. It is so obvious that you never think twice about it before someone points it out. Suddenly, it was like a lightbulb had turned on, “Of course I’m lonely! I go to class, I go to work, I go to sleep and repeat.” Where in that mix am I living my twenties? You may be tempted to acknowledge this and commit to making a change, but you must remember that whatever you schedule for you, make sure to protect it! If you’re going to a museum on Friday, don’t agree to a meeting at that same time. I am two weeks out from living this advice and I have already done more things with my friends within that time than I have all last semester.
Take Advantage of the Structures in Place
This suggestion covers a lot of ground. This could mean joining the social media groups for your academic class, a club meeting, a post-final get-together, or it could be a university-wide event; the campus is your oyster! All of these avenues contain a safety net if you’re finding yourself flying solo. What I mean by this is if you are nervous about showing up alone or you’re more of a wallflower, you’ll always have something to start a conversation about: USC! We often laugh at orientation-style ice breakers, but they exist for a reason. My advice is to start with a compliment (“I love your overalls”), introduce yourself (“I’m Seth, it’s nice to meet you!”), and roll right into the “What’s your major?” conversation (“I’m studying occupational therapy, let me explain what that means…” (IYKYK). Did I use this exact conversation just this weekend? Yes. Did I walk away with four new friend phone numbers? Yes! All I have to say is if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
Find Your People
I’m not just talking about those with similar hobbies or people you just *vibe* with; I’m talking about dropping your hairpins and stopping the code-switching, I’m talking about finding your People with a capital “P”. I highly encourage you to seek out your cultural student organizations and your communities beyond the campus boundaries. Find the people who lift the weight of your shoulders and nourish your soul in a way that only people who get it, and get you can. They’re out there, I promise!
Keep Your Roots
It may go without saying, but I think it is important to reiterate. You still have all of the friendships you had before graduate school! They may look a little different, but that doesn’t mean they are gone. Don’t be afraid to schedule a weekly check-in phone call or a tri-monthly zoom call (and make sure to protect it!). Keep sending each other those memes, let them crash on your couch when they’re in town, and visit them when you go home. Whatever your transition may bring, know that you’ll still have someone to turn to and that you’ll navigate it together.
After all of these tips I do want to add a caveat: I’m not saying you have to make the bestest of friends. Graduate school may feel long in the moment, but it goes by in the blink of an eye. Do not feel pressured to walk away from the experience with the friendship equivalent of a soulmate (If you do, I love that for you). What I am saying, though, is that it helps to have a shoulder to lean on and someone to celebrate with. It helps to have a friend, no adjective is needed. With that said, to those entering the E-OTD next year, to our incoming BS-OTD students, and to anyone who is going through a transition soon, welcome to the Trojan Friendship and thank you for being a friend.